How to Negotiate Salary After You Get a Job Offer

By Robert Half October 3, 2019 at 3:00pm

After facing tons of questions during several rounds of interviews, you finally land a job offer from a terrific team at a company with a bright future. Here's one last question: Are you adequately prepared to negotiate salary?

A survey from Robert Half shows more job seekers are asking for more money. A majority of workers (55%) said they tried to negotiate salary during their last job offer — up from 39% in 2018.

In a job market where in-demand professionals often consider multiple offers, companies know they need to build in some flexibility in their salary ranges. According to our survey, 70% of hiring managers don't expect candidates to accept the initial salary offer.

See the breakdowns of survey responses by city and by age and gender.

Bottom line? You have bargaining power. If you don't inquire about a better compensation package, you might be leaving money on the table, especially if you have specialized skills and an impressive resume.

Of course, these can be tricky conversations. For many people, talking about money is uncomfortable. It can feel awkward to ask for more than what you’re offered. You might be afraid an employer will withdraw the offer altogether if you counter it.

But don’t let your discomfort dissuade you. Here are eight tips to help you tactfully and confidently ask for what you want:

1. DO familiarize yourself with industry salary trends

You may think you deserve a higher starting salary in your new position. But what do the national and local job markets say? Information is your biggest ally.

To enter a negotiation fully informed, consult Robert Half’s Salary Guides to determine the going rate for your position and experience level. Use our Salary Calculator to see adjusted figures for your geographic area.

If you’re in the running for one of today’s hottest jobs, the employer may be having a tough time finding someone with enough skills and experience, and that opens the door to negotiate higher pay.

2. DON’T negotiate too early — or too late

Most employers expect to discuss a candidate’s desired salary in the second interview, at the earliest. Once they indicate they would like to make an offer, consider it an invitation to ask some questions.

It may help to begin with questions around benefits and other compensation areas before discussing salary.

If the company doesn’t bring up pay when they make the offer, don’t hesitate to do so yourself. Trying to negotiate salary after you’ve signed the contracts and agreed on a starting date is definitely too late.

3. DO give a specific salary

Some employers will ask about your expected salary earlier in the hiring process. Giving a wide range might seem smart, hedging your bets against pricing yourself out of a job.

But if you tell a potential employer that your acceptable pay range is $60,000 to $90,000, don’t be surprised if you’re offered $60,000. After doing your research, you should know your baseline salary — the number under which you’d be willing to walk away from an offer.

Being willing to state a specific number (or narrow range) will help you and the potential employer figure out if you’re on the same page and if it makes sense to continue the conversation. 

4. DON’T make it only about you

Salary negotiations are a two-way street. When talking about your capabilities and career, you need to frame your request for higher compensation in a way that conveys what the employer will gain in return.

While you’re preparing for a job interview, gather concrete examples of how your skills will benefit your new company’s bottom line. When you get to the negotiation stage, express how excited you are to work for the company.

Remember, many managers don’t love negotiating, either. Keeping your tone positive will help you more effectively navigate the discussions.

5. DO be honest

Successful salary negotiations depend on honesty from both parties. There’s no better way to see your offer withdrawn than having a hiring manager find out you invented a competing job offer or inflated your salaries from past jobs. Skip the bluffing, and be honest about your needs and expectations.

6. DON’T overlook the benefits

Salary negotiations often include some give-and-take on employee benefits. It may be less costly for the employer to give ground on extra vacation days, flexible hours or a work-from-home schedule.

Consider what’s valuable to you and what would make an offer more attractive. If you are considering multiple offers, remember to directly compare health insurance coverage, retirement savings plans and other benefits to make an informed decision.

Also factor in perks that reach beyond compensation, such as advancement or professional development opportunities with the potential employer.

7. DO know when to wrap it up

A reasonable employer won’t withdraw an offer just because you tried to negotiate. But dragging out the salary negotiation can frustrate the hiring manager and start out your relationship on a sour note.

If the company can’t meet your requirements after a few discussions, respectfully withdraw and focus on opportunities that better match your compensation expectations.

8. DON’T forget to get everything in writing

Once you and the hiring manager settle on a compensation package, ask for documentation of your salary and any special arrangements in writing, along with a job description and a list of responsibilities for your new role. Ensure the document is signed by both you and the employer.

If you’d like to get a better starting salary offer, you have to ask for it. Job seekers too often accept the first number that's offered. Yet many companies set starting salaries as a range with ample wiggle room. All it takes to find out if there is flexibility in the budget is a simple question: “I was hoping for something closer to [specific amount]. Is that possible?” Then wait for the response.

How to negotiate salary at your annual review

A salary negotiation can also come up during the annual review at your current job, so if  you think your strong performance warrants a raise, do your homework and present a case that shows how your work has benefited the company.

The more prepared and professional you are, the more likely you are to negotiate a great salary, so again, gather as much knowledge as you can about comparable jobs and salaries in your region. Know your worth, practice your pitch, and speak up for yourself.

Continuing your job search? Learn how Robert Half can help.

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